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10 ways to improve your memory while learning Italian

If you are reading this, you want to learn Italian but you worry about your memory. If your memory is bad, how will you remember vocabulary and rules? Should you just accept that this is how things are? Of course not. In this blog you’ll find 10 effective strategies and techniques to improve your memory retention while learning Italian.

The memory muscle

A few weeks ago, one of my beginner students asked me: “How can I improve my memory so that I can learn Italian more effectively?” He might as well have asked: “How can I improve my muscle tone so that I can lift more weight?” I say this, because, if you think about memory in the same way as you think about your muscles then it is easy to see what needs to be done.

The more you train it and use it and the stronger it gets. But before we dive into the ten strategies, there are a few myths about memory that we might need to dispel before starting. Memory is not something fixed, something that does not change or even something that simply and inexorably declines with age and nothing can be done about it.

There is strong scientific evidence to show that learning a language can have a positive impact on maintaining your cognitive functions and particularly your memory, as you age.

So, what are the ten most effective strategies and techniques to help you enhance your memory and boost your Italian language skills?

1. Create a structured learning routine

Establish a consistent study schedule and allocate dedicated time to learn Italian regularly. A class, of course, is helpful because it offers motivation, a routine and accountability all in one place. Regular practice helps reinforce your memory and language retention. Consistency is key when it comes to memory retention.

I have already discussed at length about the importance of studying consistently and its benefits for your memory. Even if you only study a little, make it often. If often sounds daunting, then study twice a week to start with. Here is my previous blog on how to implement little baby steps in language learning. Consider finishing this blog before you read this one.

2. Utilize spaced repetition

This means that the best practice for memory retention is not to cram all your study time into one day, but it is more effective to employ a spaced repetition system. So, for example collect the new vocabulary you have learnt in your class and employ flashcards either physical or flashcards apps like Anki or Quizlet. Then review them at gradually increasing intervals. This technique helps reinforce the material over time and can be done with anything, be it vocabulary, grammar rules, elements of pronunciation and so on.

3. Practice active recall

We are used to reading our notes or to look over grammar points and so on. However, this is a passive way of learning which has a very low level of effectiveness.

Instead of passively reviewing your Italian lessons, actively recall and recite the information you have learnt. Try to reproduce the vocabulary, grammar rules, or sentences from memory to reinforce your memory retention.

4. Teach someone else (or the Feynman technique)

Related to the active recall is the Feynman technique which is based on teaching what you learn to someone else. Teaching what you have learnt is an excellent way to consolidate your memory. Explain Italian grammar concepts or vocabulary to a friend or language partner. Teaching others forces you to recall and articulate the information, reinforcing your memory.

5. Utilize Mnemonics

Mnemonic devices are memory aids that help you remember information by associating it with vivid and memorable images, acronyms, or phrases. They usually link new information to something familiar. You can be creative with this and make imaginative and personalized mnemonics to recall Italian words and grammar rules. Use mental associations, acronyms, or vivid visual images to help you remember vocabulary words, grammar rules, or complex concepts in Italian.

Here is an example of a mnemonic for household items:


C – cuscino (pillow)

A – asciughino (tea towel/kitchen towel)

S – sedia (chair)

A – armadio (cupboard)

M – materasso (mattress)

A – asciugamano (hand towel)

G – guardaroba (wardrobe)

I – illuminazione (lighting)

C – cassettiera (chest of drawers)

A – appendino (hanger)

Visualise a magical house (casa magica) where each room or area represents one of these household items. This mental image will help recall the associated Italian words for the household items in questions.

6. Use Memory Palaces

This is another mnemonic technique, also known as the method of loci. This technique employs the visuals of a familiar place and associate Italian vocabulary or phrases, or anything you are studying, with specific locations within those mental spaces.

How does it work? Well, first you prepare the mnemonic by selecting a familiar place or path. Let’s say for example your favorite way through your local park. Then you start ‘furnishing’ your visual, associating the words you are studying. Try to find some correlation between the parts of the path and the words. Let’s say that you are learning names of animals.

So at the entrance of the park you see a squirrel, so you associate the two, then near the big tree you usually pass there is a bear hiding, near the pond you’ll have a duck and a swan, and so on. In fact the place and the vocabulary do not need to be linked in a logical way, so the path through the park could be used for learning ten irregular verbs, adjectives to describe personality, and so on.  As you mentally walk through the path/palace, recall the associated information.

7. Contextualize the language

Learn Italian in context by immersing yourself in authentic Italian materials. There are authentic materials for any level, a menu, a railway ticket, an announcement, are all examples of authentic materials for lower levels.

At a higher level, read Italian books, newspapers, or online articles, and practice listening to Italian conversations or podcasts. Understanding words and phrases in their real-life context improves memory retention.

Presenting language in context is something that we do regularly in our classes, conversation club and of course our book club.

8. Use repetition and review

Regularly review previously learned Italian material to reinforce your memory. Dedicate some study time each week to review vocabulary lists, grammar rules, or previously completed lessons. Repetition helps solidify your memory and prevents forgetting.

9. Engage multiple senses

Incorporate visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic learning techniques to enhance memory retention. Read graded books at lower levels and magazines, novels, newspapers at higher levels. Watch Italian movies, listen to Italian podcasts or music, and engage in hands-on activities like writing and preparing flashcards and stickers to place around the house for new  everyday vocabulary.

And most importantly, speak the language. Actively use the Italian language in real-life situations or scenarios. Practice speaking with native speakers, write emails or texts in Italian, or engage in Italian conversations whenever possible. Take every opportunity you have, to engage with fellow students, make the most of the conversation opportunities offered in your Italian lesson, sign up to a conversation club or conversation exchange and of course travel to Italy.

We have a conversation club at Parla Italiano and new classes open soon. Let me know if you wish to have a friendly chat about it by booking a slot here.

10. Get enough sleep, rest and exercise

Sleep is crucial for memory consolidation. Therefore, make sure to get enough quality sleep each night, as it helps reinforce what you’ve learnt during the day. Sleep deprivation can impair memory retention and learning abilities.

Interestingly enough, if you have trouble sleeping and are yet to find a solution, consider exercising more if you can. Exercise is proven (this is also my personal experience) to improve the quality of your sleep.


To summarise, language learning is the secret fountain of youth. Many studies have discovered that learning a second language like Italian offers proven benefits for memory, concentration, intelligence and lowers the risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

If you are interested in improving your memory, start implementing one of the many strategies described here. Start with baby steps, choose something small enough so that you are likely to do it. Work on your Italian often and make your revision and studying active. So instead of reading your notes, try to recall them, use flashcards to recall vocabulary, explain grammar rules to other people.

Enjoy good healthy foods, take some exercise doing something you enjoy and take care of your sleep. But especially, as any Italian would say: first and foremost enjoy life!

So, if you are yet to start, don’t delay, start learning and reap all its benefits. If you are unsure, book a friendly chat with me here.

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